Paris Hilton may have shot to fame on the reality show “The Simple Life,” but it turns out real life was much more complicated.
The platinum-blond socialite turned media mogul mines the depths of her extraordinary past in her debut memoir “Paris: The Memoir” (Dey Street Books, 336 pp., out Tuesday). Apart from navigating the pitfalls of fame, the sire of "sliving" opens up about the experiences that rocked her world, including living with undiagnosed ADHD and a harrowing two-year stint at a series of boarding schools.
“The people who hurt you don’t get the last word. You get to tell the story of you, and your story has more power than you can imagine,” Hilton writes. “I set out to create the truest possible representation of the life I’ve lived and the motivating factors that steered my course.”
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Unlike the traditional autobiography, “Paris” strays from chronological narrative with spirited tangents that pepper Hilton’s telling of her life's story.
This sporadic style serves as a nod to Hilton’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental condition “marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Diagnosed in her early 20s, Hilton discusses the alienation of navigating childhood without a diagnosis. “No one ever said, ‘Relax, little girl. There are many different kinds of intelligence,’” she reflects. “Instead, people told me I was dumb, bratty, careless, ungrateful or not applying myself.”
But Hilton learned to harness ADHD as a career strength, especially when it came to her work targeting the practices of the "troubled teen" industry.
“Advocacy work blessed me with the silver bullet that transforms my ADHD from disability to superpower: purpose,” Hilton writes. “For years I told myself I was incapable of focusing on anything. Now I know that I can be a laser beam when I focus on something that truly matters.”
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Paris Hilton opens up about ‘horror’ of boarding school years
Hilton unpacks the trauma she experienced in her teens while attending Provo Canyon School, a Utah boarding school for troubled teens. She first made allegations of verbal, emotional and physical abuse experienced during her 11-month stint at the school in the YouTube Originals documentary "This Is Paris" in 2020.
Hilton was first enrolled in CEDU, an “emotional growth boarding school,” by her parents following a rebellious streak of school expulsions and sneaking out to raves. Over the course of several thwarted runaway attempts, Hilton was transferred to the facilities Ascent, Cascade and Provo, where she claims she experienced manual labor, beatings, verbal harassment by students and staff, and even solitary confinement.
“The terrible truth is, I became numb after a while,” Hilton writes. “When you endure horror day after day, month after month, it becomes normalized.”
Hilton says she found resilience – and masterminded her media empire – by creating “a mechanically specific vision” of what her life would look like after she graduated from Provo.
“Instead of numbered sweats, I’d curate a designer wardrobe and never wear the same outfit twice, Hilton writes. “Instead of bloodshot eyes and a bruised face, I’d have lush fake lashes, a seamless spray tan and a touch of glitter on my cheekbones. … I would make so much money and be so successful, no one could ever have control over me again.”
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Paris Hilton says sex symbol image was inspired by past trauma
Hilton deconstructs her “sex symbol” persona, revealing that her early image was influenced by a history of sexual trauma, which includes a drug-induced rape her freshman year of high school and multiple instances of “digital rape” while attending boarding school.
“I wanted to be alive in a sensual way. I wanted to feel like a woman who’s comfortable in her own skin," Hilton writes. “The ironic thing is, because of the abuse and degradation I survived as a teen … I feared sex. I hated the idea of sex. I avoided sex until it was absolutely unavoidable.”
She adds: “My sexy clothes, music, videos … that was my way of reclaiming a healthy sexuality that had been robbed from me. It made me feel alive and playful in a way I wish I could have been when I was in bed with someone I cared about.”
Hilton describes the period of struggle with her sexuality as a form of asexuality. While her thinking is not uncommon, experts say fear of sexual intimacy, sexual repression or avoiding sex because of trauma are not the same thing as being asexual, a sexual orientation characterized by a lack of sexual attraction.
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Paris Hilton was ‘devastated’ by release of sex tape she made when she was 19
Hilton was launched to fame in the early 2000s thanks in part to the release of a sex tape she made with boyfriend Rick Salomon in 2000. Hilton doesn’t name Salomon in her account, only referring to him by his nickname "Scum."
"I don’t remember that much about the night he wanted to make a videotape while we made love," Hilton writes, revealing that she drank alcohol and took quaaludes prior to the making of the tape. "He had often said it was something he did with other women, but I felt weird and uncomfortable about it. I always told him, ‘I can’t. It’s too embarrassing.’"
Despite being assured by "Scum" that "no one else would ever see it," the tape would come back to haunt Hilton a few years later when a 37-second clip of the video began circulating online, followed by a full-length release.
“The release of that private footage devastated me, personally and professionally. It followed me into every audition and business meeting for years,” Hilton writes. “Even now, in a corporate world dominated by men, I look around a conference table knowing that most of the people sitting there have seen me naked in the most degrading way imaginable.”
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Paris Hilton alleges Harvey Weinstein chased her into a bathroom stall
Hilton recalls an unpleasant experience she had with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in the spring of 2000 while attending the Cannes Film Festival. Weinstein, who is already nearly three years into his 23-year sentence for a rape and sexual assault conviction in New York, was sentenced to 16 years in prison on similar charges in his Los Angeles criminal trial last month.
Hilton says she and a film producer friend met with Weinstein for an unsuccessful business lunch at the festival, during which Weinstein “made pervy, weird comments about me and my potentially huge future in his world.”
Hilton and Weinstein would run into each other again at an amfAR event the following night, where she says he chased her into a women’s restroom stall after she tried avoiding him. Hilton says Weinstein was “dragged” out of the bathroom by security after he “pounded on the stall door” and yelled “gross, drunk nonsense like ‘Ya wanna be a star?’”
“I was afraid that if I shared that story, the next question would be, ‘Why didn’t you speak up at the time?’ and I had no answer for that,” Hilton writes. “I admire the courageous women who stepped up and called him out, but every woman who went through something with him – and others like him – has the right to process it in the way that works for her.”
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Paris Hilton reveals anxiety-inducing pregnancy, abortion
Hilton opens up about the “private agony” of deciding to have an abortion after learning she was pregnant during her relationship with model-actor Jason Shaw, whom she began dating in 2001.
“When I realized I was pregnant, it was like waking up on the ledge outside a 40th-floor window. I was terrified and heartsick,” Hilton writes. “I felt paralyzed by an anxiety that took root in my body and grew like poison ivy.”
Although Hilton has mulled over her decision since having the abortion, she says she ultimately “made the right choice” for herself.
“The fact is, there was no happy little family at stake,” Hilton writes. “Trying to continue that pregnancy with the physical and emotional issues I was dealing with at the time would have been a train wreck for everyone involved. At that moment in my life, I was in no way capable of being a mother. Denying that would have jeopardized the family I hoped to have in the future, at a time when I was healthy and healed.”
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Paris Hilton takes control of ‘reproductive destiny’ with IVF
Hilton gets candid about trying to have a child via IVF, including nearly two years of unsuccessful procedures that saw Hilton endure “month after month of injections” and “several egg-harvesting procedures.”
“I had to confront the fact that my mind and body had never fully healed … from the trauma I went through as a teenager,” Hilton writes. “As an adolescent, I was starved and beaten, pushed to the emotional breaking point.”
Hilton says her IVF experience highlights the importance of young women taking control of their “reproductive destiny.”
“We need to know ourselves, know what’s right for us – and when – and stay in the driver’s seat,” Hilton writes. “Don’t wait for Mr. Right to show up. Understand your options and take charge of your future.”
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Contributing: Jenna Ryu and Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Paris Hilton details abortion, sex tape, trauma in 'Paris: The Memoir'